Sy Studley

This article was written by Paul Proia

“Studley made a powerful and reliable hand at the bat; was agile and prompt in the field, and a good runner…”1

In the 1860s and 1870s, Seymour (Sy) Studley was a member of Rochester, New York’s and Washington D.C.’s pioneer amateur and professional baseball clubs. He briefly played with the Washington Nationals of the National Association in 1872 — which is how he landed in your baseball encyclopedia. After his brief professional career, bad relationships with wives and alcohol contributed to more than two decades of frightening domestic violence until death finally called him away from his troubled life.

Seymour L. Studley was the first of four children born to Luther and Lucy Ann (Main or Maine) Studley in May 1841. Luther was a land trader while Lucy Ann, ten years his junior, took care of a growing family. Through his mother, Seymour traced his family lineage to a John Maine (or Mayne), who left Devonshire, England and landed in what is now Casco Bay, Maine in 1631.2 Several generations later, Seymour arrived in Byron, New York, but soon after his family moved to the Rochester area, where they stayed for the next several years. As a young adult, Studley took a job as a teamster and spent his free time playing baseball. Seymour played on many of the amateur baseball clubs of his city, such as the Flour City and Live Oaks clubs, developing friendships with other local athletes such as Henry Berthrong and Dennis Coughlin.3

Like many young adults of his age, Studley enlisted with the Union Army during the Civil War, serving in Company C of the 54th New York Infantry in 1864. Afterward, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he took up a position as a clerk in the U.S. Treasury. In fact, his moving there may have been connected to that of his friend, Henry Berthrong, who came from Rochester, served in the Army during the Civil War, and became a baseball player in the district when the war ended. In fact, his baseball job and civil service job were likely related.

The captain of the Nationals from the club’s founding was Arthur Pue Gorman, a future US Senator from Maryland. In the late 1860s, Gorman became the president of the National Association — the organization that eventually became the first “major” league of professional baseball. While a player and president of the National Association, Gorman was also a lawyer and collector of internal revenue for the fifth district of Maryland.4 In the 1860s, looking for talent, the National Base Ball Club (and other clubs) would use their connections with many of the most important individuals of the capital — generals and cabinet office holders and department heads were members of their athletic organization — to attract players. Even Presidents Lincoln and Johnson were known to attend important matches. Johnson was once named an honorary member of the Mutuals of New York City.5 These connections allowed Gorman to offer not only a spot on the team but also a clerkship position with one of many government agencies to baseball playing members of the club.6

In the years immediately following the war, Washington’s National baseball club played all of the great Eastern and Midwestern amateur and semiprofessional teams. Studley was a popular outfielder7 — especially with the female fans (more on that later) — and he hung around with the top club of the city from 1866 through at least 1872.8 History doesn’t tell us which way he batted or threw, but Studley was a thick 5-foot-7, weighing about 180 pounds. Along the way, he picked up the nickname “Warhorse”” and occasionally was called “Seems” (short for Seymour).

His best game came against the local rival Olympic Club. Studley collected six hits, including three doubles; scored all six times he reached base; stole a couple of bases; and drove in four runs in a 23-14 win.9 In 1872 the Washington National club joined the National Association — and for about three weeks, Seymour was a center fielder in what we now call the major leagues. Appearing in five games, Studley got just two hits in his 21 at-bats. His professional days ended on May 8, 1872. At this point, Studley’s name stops appearing in box scores and starts appearing in court reports and crime stories.

Mentioned earlier were Studley’s interactions with the ladies. In the 1865 New York Census, he was listed as married to an Anna Studley and living with his Rochester family. By the 1870 US Census, he was living with two women who were also clerks for the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. One of them, Ernestine Becker, later became his wife in 1872. He was also listed as the father to a child born to a Jene Studley about this time. Grave profiles found on suggest that he fathered two children in the 1870s, Francis and Josephine, neither of whom saw a second birthday. Based on newspaper accounts, these were likely the children of Seymour and Ernestine Studley.

Almost a year to the day after Studley’s major-league career ended, he came home drunk and knocked his wife senseless, along with her friend, Mary Crowley. Studley served jail time while his wife recovered from a broken jaw.10 Ernestine Studley filed for divorce in 1877, citing Seymour’s continued drunken behavior and violence, but the proceedings were never completed.11 A year later, following even more violent threats, Ernestine again filed for divorce, citing cruelty to her and their children, and asking for $50 each month in alimony payments.12

At some point between his divorce proceedings and his next marriage, Studley migrated west. He landed as a collector and then salesman for a local newspaper in Lincoln, Nebraska. As he approached his 50th birthday, he applied for and received a pension for his Civil War service.13

In 1883, he married a Katie Clark in Lincoln, Nebraska. Three years later Studley was arrested and fined for disorderly behavior in Lincoln.14 Around 1890, Studley began living with and eventually married Mary E. Brennan, an Irish immigrant with a history of toxic behavior. In the years before they married, Brennan had been the housekeeper of a local bondsman and had a child by him. A few years later, she had been removed from the home, a restraining order was put in place, and her child was left in the care of the father.15 Brennan, according to the 1900 US Census, had nine children, seven that were still alive. None of them were living with her in any capacity.

Anyway — two people with severe drinking problems and a penchant for violent behavior were living with each other. Over the next decade, Seymour and Mary would drink themselves to oblivion — and then get in the wildest of violent fights, with many of them landing on the pages of the local Lincoln newspapers. In fact, by July 1890, the Nebraska State Journal noted that they “…have been arrested divers times for drunkeness [sic] and quarrelling.”16

They were just getting started.

In 1892, they pulled each other’s hair and scratched each other — and Seymour tried to bite Mary’s nose off. Four months later, after another fight:

“…(T)he court informed them that in its opinion they were well-developed, corpulent nuisances, and as there was no reason shown why they should be allowed to exist on earth, he gave them fifteen days in the city jail.”17

In 1893, Mary tried to slit his throat while he was sleeping; Seymour suggested a different blade and used the time she spent sharpening her knife to find a board. When Mary returned, Seymour clobbered her about the head several times until neighbors and police intervened. “When told that he had possibly killed the woman Studley sniffed contemptuously and said that it couldn’t be done.”18

In 1899, Mary allegedly threw kerosene on him and set him on fire.19

And if Mary wasn’t trying to kill him, Mother Nature helped out. In 1896, Studley was severely injured when a tornado ripped through Lincoln and shattered windows of the hotel where he worked as a porter. Flying glass cut Studley in several places, requiring a lengthy hospital stay.20 Despite his public record of drunken behavior and violent outbursts, and what had to be weeks of jail time,21 he was regularly hired to serve on voter registration boards.22

At some point, Studley was moved to a soldier’s home in Grand Island, Nebraska, where he would safely spend the rest of his days.23 On July 9, 1901, having somehow passed his 60th birthday and survived the previous decade, death called Seymour Studley away from this earth.24 He was buried in Grand Island’s Soldiers and Sailors Cemetery beneath a Civil War headstone.

After Seymour died, Mary, in need of Studley’s Civil War pension, traveled to Omaha to register for that pension as his widow. Soon after collecting $30, she went on a bender. When she returned in a drunken stupor to the “old ladies’ home” she used as a hotel, she was arrested for disorderly conduct. So, she spent the night in jail. The next day she faced a judge and paid a fine. Told to go home, she found a local bar — and got arrested for drunken behavior again.25

Nearly 13 years later, Seymour Studley’s luck finally changed. A note looking for Studley was shared with the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Silas J. Brown, of Rochester, N. Y., has written Police Chief Copelan a letter asking him to try to find Seymour L. Studley, last heard of in Cincinnati 23 years ago. Some news of great advantage awaits the man, the letter says.26

Except, of course, Studley was a corpse.



This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rory Costello and fact-checked by Terry Bohn.



1850, 1870, 1900 US Census
1855, 1865 New York Census

Nebraska and Washington DC Marriage Records
Washington DC Birth Records

Civil War Draft Registrations
Civil War Pension Index
Civil War Headstone Applications



1 “The Nationals at Chicago,” Washington Evening Star, August 1, 1867: 1.

2 Algernon Aikin Aspinwall, “The Descendants of Ezekial Maine of Stonington, Conn.,” National Archives website. Retrieved September 9, 2020.

3 “Death of Seymour L. Studley,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 13, 1901: 14.

4 Washington Evening Star, September 6, 1867: 1.

5 “Base Ball Contest,” Washington Evening Star, August 27, 1867: 3.

6 Ryan A. Swanson, When Baseball Went White (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 92 – 95.

7 “Local News,” Washington Evening Star, September 4, 1867: 3.

8 “Sports and Pastimes,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 6, 1866: 2.

9 “Base Ball,” Washington National Republican, June 25, 1870: 4.

10 “Alleged Terrible Assault on a Wife By Her Husband,” Washington Evening Star, May 6, 1873: 4.

11 “Mismated Couples,” Washington National Republican, June 14, 1877: 4.

12 “Wants a Divorce,” Washington Evening Star, February 15, 1878: 4. Also, “The Counts,” Washington Evening Star, February 14, 1878: 4.

13 “Pensions Granted,” Lincoln Journal Star, October 13, 1891: 4.

14 “Police Court,” Nebraska State Journal, October 29, 1886: 8.

15 “Gets His Homestead,” Lincoln Evening News, June 11, 1894: 5.

16 “He Was Jealous Of Mary,” Nebraska State Journal, July 26, 1890: 3.

17 “A Great Scheme”, Lincoln Evening News, 30 August 1892, Page 5.

18 “Love One Another,” Lincoln Evening News, July 7, 1893: 1.

19 “City in Brief,” Lincoln Evening News, July 12, 1899: 6.

20 “Touched by a Tornado”, Lincoln Evening News, May 13, 1896: 1.

21 “City in Brief,” Lincoln Evening News, June 11, 1894: 5.

22 “Registration Of Voters,” Nebraska State Journal, October 14, 1900: 7. Also, “Mortuary,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 10, 1901: 6. Also, “Judges and Clerks of Election,” Nebraska State Journal, October 29, 1891: 7.

23 “Mortuary,” Lincoln Journal Star, July 10, 1901: 6.

24 “Death of Seymour L. Studley,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 13, 1901: 14.

25 “King Alcohol’s Cruel Trick,” Omaha Daily Bee, October 02, 1901: 4.

26 “Seek Seymour L. Studley,” Cincinnati Enquirer, April 24, 1914: 16.

Full Name

Seymour L. Studley


May , 1841 at Byron, NY (USA)


July 9, 1901 at Grand Island, NE (USA)

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